With our annual Spinnaker Summit inching closer, we want to give you a closer look at who will be on stage. From how they got started in their careers to their favorite conversation starter, each speaker will reveal interesting tidbits that you won't find on their LinkedIn. It's the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow event-goers and step up your networking game at Spinnaker Summit.
First up is Benji Meltzer, Co-Founder and CTO of Aerobotics. Let's dig into what he has to say.
1. Tell us a bit about you. What led you to co-found Aerobotics?
I'm an engineer born and bred in South Africa. I've always been interested in using data to solve complex problems, and pursued my masters at Imperial College London where my research focused on using machine learning to diagnose traumatic brain injury. In 2014, after working and studying internationally, both myself and my co-founder James (who was at MIT at the time) decided to return back to South Africa to build Aerobotics. We set out to help farmers manage interventions in their crop—from data collection (using primarily aerial imagery from drone & satellite), to visualization and interaction.
We both found this industry and opportunity particularly interesting since historical data didn't exist (we had to build the collection capabilities ourselves) and advances in computer vision and machine learning made scalable analysis of this data achievable. We specifically chose to build the business in South Africa after realizing we had access to some of the best talent globally, at affordable prices, as well as some of the most tech-savvy farmers in the world to use as pilot customers.
2. What inspires you the most about Aerobotics?
The products we've developed and our constant ability to deliver products that directly add value to our customers. There has been a lot of noise in the industry, and companies have typically found it difficult to develop technology that can be easily adopted by customers. We've been able to leverage the latest technology to help bridge this gap.
3. What's your biggest accomplishment at the company so far?
The caliber of team that we've built. Currently, we have 85 people (largely technical) spread across Cape Town, Los Angeles and Porto. Also, all the jobs that we've created in an industry that didn't exist a few years ago.
4. We're excited that you're joining us at this year's Spinnaker Summit! Are you looking forward to anything in particular?
I'm really excited to network with people in the community and discuss how others are solving similar problems. There aren't many people using these tools in South Africa, so this will be a unique opportunity to share and collaborate with like-minded people.
5. In your upcoming session with Nicholas Coles, you'll be talking about "The Future of Farming with Aerobotics". Why would you say this a must-see session and what can attendees expect to take away from it?
Our use-case and application of the technology is definitely unique. We've used Spinnaker to scale from early stage to a global company, servicing farmers all over the world and processing over 38 million trees worth of data. It's a great session to gain insight into the Agritech industry, as well as learn how others are leveraging Spinnaker for applications, from API deployments and continuous delivery to managing batch-processing pipelines in multiple environments.
6. Any words for those on the fence about joining you and the open-source community at the Spinnaker Summit?
The Spinnaker Summit is a unique opportunity to connect with a few of the fastest growing tech companies globally. Over our existence, we've found that these events—particularly in the open-source community—serve as extremely effective platforms to share and gain information through in-person interactions. If you're interested in learning first-hand about Spinnaker and surrounding technologies, as well as best practices in continuous delivery and lessons from first-hand experiences in the space, this is definitely a summit worth attending.
7. If someone wants to approach you at the Summit, what's a good ice-breaker they can use?
Tell me about your favorite type of fruit tree :-)
Now that you know a bit more about Benji, connect with him on LinkedIn and add his upcoming session to your calendar. If you haven't already, register for Spinnaker Summit to attend Benji's talk and mingle with industry leaders from Netflix, Google, Adobe, Amazon, and many more.